Friday, June 19

Where there's muck there may be a problem.

Back in 2008 several of us on our allotment site noticed strange growth primarily affecting potato and tomato plants. Everyone affected had used manure from the same source and it soon became apparent that across the country other gardeners were experiencing the same problem. The use of a hormonal weedkiller being used on grazing land was identified as the cause of the problem. As a result I started to gather together as much information as I could about the problem and people affected and added a section on my website where I published everything that I found out. Basically the problem was that the active ingredient - aminopyralid - remains active for an incredible length of time. It is trapped in the plant material until decomposition occurs when it is the released as a still active chemical. If you want to read more you can do so  on my website here.
Last week I had an email from Neil Edinburgh that - with Neil's permission - I want to share as a warning that it is still important to take care when sourcing manure. 

Neil wrote, "Just thought you might be interested to hear that I have been the victim of contaminated manure this year.  The manure was collected from a local stables in April, and used as part of my compost mix for spuds in potato bags and barrels.  Also I used it in a hanging basket for tomatoes.  Broad beans planted near some onions where I dug some manure in are also showing the affects of poisoning, though the onions themselves seem unaffected.  

All the affected crops have been pulled out, apart from one potato barrel, which I have left as a test case, to see if they recover.

Very annoying, I'm just glad I discovered it was contaminated before adding any more to my plot... two beds I have dug it into were meant for my courgettes, but I think i will grow them elsewhere.  I may try growing squashes in these beds as I'm not so bothered about them.

I have collected manure from these stables for the last 3 years and never had a problem until this year".

Neil also provide the photos in this post.
Potatoes
Potatoes
Aminopyraliod is the active ingredient in two hormonal weedkillers - Forefront - used in agriculture. Conditions governing their use should prevent any manure containing aminopyralid from being supplied for use in horticulture, however clearly in some cases contaminated manure is still getting through. The problem is that the contamination can enter the supply chain at various points and the end supplier may be unaware if its use further up the chain.

Possible entry points are:

  • Fields sprayed where animals graze.
  • Fields sprayed and grass used for silage, herbage or hay for feed or bedding.
  • Contaminated ingredients being used in commercial feed such as pony nuts.
  • Contaminated material being used in composts
Tomatoes
It is also important to know that stacking manure even for several years will not remove the contamination.
Broad bean
Related to this another of the active ingredient in Verdone ,a readily available lawn preparation, is clopyralid. This behaves in a similar way to aminopyralid. Instructions for use state that clippings from lawns treated should not be composted. 

"The first mowing after application must not be used as a mulch, either fresh or after composting since it may damage desired plants. Dispose of via normal household waste. Do not dispose of via council composting schemes.
The next three mowings should be used as a mulch only after composting well for at least 9 months." 

If the instruction are ignored and clippings they are put into green waste bins does the contaminated material end up in compost either supplied by councils or used in commercial composts that use green waste as an ingredient? The usual decontamination process will not 'kill' or remove the active ingredient. We can only hope that users not only read but actually follow the instructions.

If you do have problems with composts especially if your plant show any features of hormonal weedkiller damage then let the manufacturers know. What with the army of pests and diseases and the weather we have enough to cope with and deserve to be supplied with decent compost.


26 comments:

  1. Our local Council would be very upset to see people being advised to put green waste in the normal rubbish bins - in fact we have recently been told that we could be "punished" for this by not having our waste collected.
    Some of my French Beans are showing signs of mild contamination. Not as bad as last year, so possibly a residual contamination rather than a new one. The tomatoes seem unaffected so far, despite the fact that I am using composted stable manure. I concluded that the problems I had last year came from the Westland multi-purpose compost in which I raised many of my seedlings.

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    1. Our council would have the same view so I guess if a user could be bothered they could go to the council tip bit would that mean that iy would still end up in the green waste. If like on our estate houses back onto a field where horses graze would people be tempted to tip it over the fence?

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  2. Such widespread chemical use is frightening. No-one has any idea where it might end up, it is out of control. I steer clear of council compost now, who knows what may be in it. Pernicious weeds and still viable weed seeds are the least of the worries I think.

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    1. And there are pletny of weeds seeds lurking in the soil for it not to really matter if you add a few more CJ

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  3. It's worrying, isn't it? Even if you stay away from stables and buy what you consider a reputable compost, it could still be in that. Everything seems pot luck these days.

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    1. Doesn't it just, Jo. Buying peat free compost is a lottery as the components seem to vary so much. It's amazing what people find in bags of compost these days, It makes my find of a flattened toad in a bale of peat some years ago to be normal. It was on suspended animation and recied when I watered it!

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    2. I meant revived of course

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  4. Thanks for such an informative post Sue. Both chemicals can obviously have devastating consequences. I only wish that my can of worms could go into large scale manure production.

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    1. I think those of us who discovered the problem 7 years ago opened a very large can of worms, Anna

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  5. It is kind of scary that they allow such a persistent herbicide to be used.

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    1. It is Daphne - makes you wonder what else is out there,

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  6. Somewhere in the thick fog that used to be my brain I think I recall that the pesticide responsible for these problems was removed from sale . . . and then promptly allowed back again when manufacturers / chemical companies moaned, complained and lobbied furiously.

    It's the same with Neonicotinoids. Irrefutable proof that they damage bees and other pollinating insects but still they are widely used.

    And don't get me started on Monsanto . . .

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    1. The company requested that the licence was temporarily withdraw, Jayne whist they worked in a new stewardship agreement that was supposed to prevent contamination leaving the site where the resulting manure etc was produced, Once the new stewardship was in place the stuff was licensed for sale in test areas, - Scotland, N Ireland and SW England. After a 'successful' trial period it was relicensed for use generally.

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  7. I can't see any way that municipal composters can stop people putting contaminated grass in their bins and therefore any compost made will be contaminated.
    I would imagine the very best composts do not use municipal waste?
    I feel a post coming on about going back to peat. I do think it is a superb material and the public are wrong about rejecting it.

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    1. I agree, Roger. There ceratainly doesn't seem to be a compost that comes close to the consistent performance of peat based compost

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  8. Curly leaves is almost happen in my garden, especially during dry season. I think I should notice the stuff for my compost heap, so no contamination again.

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    1. Leaves can curl for other reasons too, Endah

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  9. How worrying and disturbing! There I am thinking I'm being really green and have no idea what I'm putting in my garden. Yes....the peat discussion will rage for sure!xxx

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  10. I'm actually surprised that they still allow such herbicides to be applied to lawns. In so many other respects, the UK seems to be much more advanced in their foresight than we are in North America about issues that involve overall public health. I don't make anywhere near the amount of compost that my garden needs so rely heavily on municipally generated compost. Thankfully, it is now illegal to sell or use broad spectrum herbicides on lawns in Ontario, so that provides me with at least a small measure of comfort when using the town compost.

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    1. I think the clopyralid problem hit the US composting industry before it became a problem here Margaret,maybe they lobbied hard, I know there are aminopyraliid products available for agriculture in the US in different states it's either Forefront or Grazon. In Canada ap is present in Grazon and Restore,

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  11. Interesting information Sue, I don’t know how other councils operate, but here where I live they collect all green waste for free and it is hot composted, but it isn’t sold or given away, all the compost they make is used by the council themselves on their own projects like roundabouts, parking areas and such. I am happy they collected mine and it didn’t go to landfill as I didn’t have space for composting myself, but now that I have a slightly bigger garden I intend to compost myself once I got the garden cleared and I don’t have 10 bags a week to get rid of. Hopefully in time I won’t need to buy compost anymore :-)

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    1. Some councils sell the compost Helene and the heat treatment doesn't remove ap contamination. Will you still grow lots in pots as you will need lot s of compost for that,

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  12. That's worrying isn't it. I got a load of manure this year and was a bit worried about this problem but all seems to be fine thankfully. I would still always go for a peat-free compost anyway, the environmental impact of peat stripping from a scarce habitat and releasing carbon into the atmosphere is not worth me having nice veggies. Though there are some products that reclaim peat from watercourses. Anyway I won't start that debate now.....!

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    1. As with most things it's a complex issue Loiu

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